A new species of non-native mammal has been confirmed for mainland Britain after a social media post led to the chance discovery of a greater white-toothed shrew in North-East England.

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A photograph of a dead specimen of the shrew was posted on social media after it was killed by a cat in Sunderland.

The unusual looking, long-snouted shrew caught the eye of ecologist Ian Bond and subsequent DNA tests confirmed that it was a greater white-toothed shrew which is found across Western Europe and North Africa but up until now was not found in mainland UK.

Greater white-toothed shrew © Sam Browett
Researchers are studying the dispersal of the greater white-toothed shrew in Ireland, where it was first discovered in 2007 from the pellets of birds of prey. © Sam Browett

This shrew species was also discovered in Ireland nearly a decade ago where it is having a negative impact on Ireland’s native shrews.

“The greater white-toothed shrew is known to outcompete the native pygmy shrew in Ireland,” says Allan McDevitt from the Mammal Society. “It is urgent that its distribution and potential impact in England is assessed.”

Research is underway to establish how the greater white-toothed shrew arrived
in England.

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Main image: DNA analysis confirmed the presence of the greater white-toothed shrew in mainland Britain. © Ruth Carden

Authors

Simon Birch is an award-winning freelance journalist who has specialised in environmental and ethically themed features for 20 years. He regularly contribute to a wide range of national newspapers and magazines.

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